“The DOSVID-19 Diaries, episode one. The world as we know it is gone. In its place, a nearly-identical facsimile made up of familiar driveways and lawns, picket fences and mailboxes. I always pictured a post-dosequisvirus world as some kind of apocalyptic wasteland. You know, all dust, tumbleweeds, and skies of ashen gray. Instead, it’s still just suburbia, it’s still just my neighborhood block, it’s still all the same people jogging or walking their dogs or trimming their hedges on a sunny afternoon. But the differences are there. Spray bottles instead of cell phones. Loincloths instead of designer jeans. Round-the-clock social distancing. Lush green lawns. Clear blue sky. Lysol on the breeze. Naked is the new normal. Or nearly naked, anyway. An entire populace watering the grass, watering themselves, maintaining their sheens at all times. This is the future. This is the year 2020—”
“Dude,” Theo snarks. “Are you ripping the intro from Turbo Kid?”
I glare at him, hit the stop button on my tape recorder. “Future generations will laud my tapes for their pop culture savvy as well as their historical accuracy!”
“Future generations won’t even know what a tape is, much less play yours.”
“Current generations don’t know what a tape is,” Eva adds.
I glare at the two of them sitting smugly in their plastic lawn chairs, Theo hidden away inside his black and white jungle boy skin, Eva in her shitty sarong and with her arms folded protectively across her chest (I don’t know why—it’s not like she has anything worth covering up). A heavily-artifacted version of Jan is lying sprawled on the grass, and, as stripped down as the rest of us, is working on his sheen (with the power off, SuperMegaNet is no longer online, and so his missing bytes are no longer augmented). We’re having a lawn party out in front of my grandparents’ house. What’s a lawn party? It’s where you and your friends get together—six feet apart from each other, of course—and water your lawn while maintaining your sheen. The idea is to deter rogue wildfire embers by eliminating any and all dry, flammable surfaces. But it’s all bullshit, because people aren’t catching fire, they’re catching dosequisvirus. Everybody knows this, everybody’s thinking it, but we’re all too busy social distancing to actually talk about it.
“I’m just wondering where the heck you got a tape recorder in the first place,” Jan tells me, and reaches lazily for his spray bottle, sets off a cloud of mist above himself, then closes his eyes as the droplets settle on his pixelated pecs.
“My stupid grandparents won’t let me have a cell phone until I’m eighteen,” I reply. “Besides, there’s no power anyway, so I’m making do with this monstrosity for as long as the batteries last. Hose me down!”
Eva picks up her bottle and shoots a half-assed vapor plume my way, the remains of which barely moisten my big toe.
Ernie is not amused! “What the hell was that?”
Theo rolls his eyes. Sighs. “Sheen check.”
Like good little shaggy-haired citizens (the barber shops are closed), the gang springs into action, spraying each other down, checking for wet hair, glistening skin. Well, they’re checking each other. I, on the other hand, am being totally ignored.
“Hey!” I shout at them. “What about the fat kid?”
Eva nods at Theo.
Who nods at Jan.
Who nods back.
Theo calmly walks over to the side of the house, picks up the garden hose, cranks the tap wide open, and—oh, shit!—turns the fucking thing on me.
“Blaaarg!” I scream, falling out of my chair and cradling the tape recorder against my chest. “I am not a lawn! This is abuse! Fuck you, RKO! I hope you get dosequisvirus and die!”
Theo drops the hose, turns off the water, sits back in his plastic chair, air-high-fives Jan and Eva.
“I’m waterlogged!” I scream, spitting water.
“Yeah,” Jan says, “but at least you won’t catch fire.”